Trading in your current vehicle is an excellent way to knock thousands of dollars off the price of the new or used one that you plan to purchase. But the amount of money you get for your car is directly related to how good it looks. Of course, it's important that the car runs well, but look are what sells. Here are some tips to help you clean, shine and polish your way to a greater trade-in value.
Polish the exterior.
If nothing else, make sure that the exterior of the car is immaculate. It's the first thing that the dealer will see, and later, it'll be the first thing the next buyer will see. A thorough washing and wax job are a must. And don't overlook the little details. Remember to clean around the doorframes, the edges of the trunk, the area just above your tires. Headlights and fog lights should be crystal clear and gleaming.
Make the wheels shine.
Wheels are usually the dirtiest part of a car. Because they're constantly in contact with the road, people often overlook the wheels when they're cleaning their cars. Front wheels get especially dirty because of the accumulation of brake dust. What's the point in cleaning them if they're just going to get dirty, anyway?
Clean wheels have a big impact on your vehicle's appearance. Take the time to polish the rims or hubcaps. Use a spray-on tire protectant to get your tires gleaming, too. When they're nice and shiny, they'll look like they're well taken care of.
You should also examine your tires' tread depth before trading in your car. In general, springing for a new set of tires before trading in your car won't help you as far as value, so it's only recommended if the tire tread is dangerously low. In that case, put an inexpensive set of tires on to enhance the vehicle's perceived value.
Vacuum and spot-clean the interior.
Over time, car interiors can get grimy, especially if you have kids or pets. Take the time to vacuum the seats and floors, getting in all the cracks and crevices to remove dirt and crumbs. Use an auto-safe spot cleaner to remove any stains on the carpet or upholstery. If you've never used the product before, test it in an inconspicuous place first to make sure it doesn't cause discoloration. The last thing you want when you plan to trade in your vehicle is a big bleached out stain.
Freshen it up.
Sometimes, the extra touches help seal the deal. When you're trying to sell a house, for example, your agent may recommend that you bake cookies or burn a pleasant-smelling candle before buyers come over for the open house. You can apply this concept to your car, too. Put an air freshener in your car to give it a nice smell whenever you open the door. Do this a few days before you plan to trade your vehicle in. Air fresheners are often a little overwhelming at first.
Get your records together.
Dealers and buyers like to see proof that a vehicle has been maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Showing proof of regular oil changes, for example, can put a buyer's mind at ease. You'll also want to include the owner's manual and the vehicle warranty, if it still applies. Keep these documents, spare keys, and key fobs in a plastic bag in the glove compartment.
Taking pride in your vehicle's appearance can help you get the most out of your trade at a used car dealer. If you follow the tips above, your vehicle will be showroom ready, and you'll be poised to get more money back toward your next vehicle.